[nfbwatlk] 82 year old bus driver

Albert Sanchez via nfbwatlk nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org
Tue May 27 18:01:51 UTC 2014

Amazing! A.S.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Becky Frankeberger via nfbwatlk" <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
To: "'NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List'" <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 12:39 PM
Subject: [nfbwatlk] 82 year old bus driver

> Below is from today's online edition of the, "Seattle Times."  Best, Kevin
> Every so often, Al Ramey thinks about switching lanes. He glances at the
> mirrors of his King County Metro bus and sees nothing but open pavement.
> Then a sixth sense kicks in.
> "I don't make that move, and sure enough, there will be a Miniature
> Something going by, and it's out of all my mirrors," he says. "I can't 
> pick
> it up in any mirror. And you'll see me moving my body around, to make sure
> I've covered everything."
> Because as he's fond of saying, anything on the street can bite you.
> Ramey has been honing these instincts for 61 years. He is probably the
> longest-tenured transit driver in the nation,
> <http://issuu.com/atucomm/docs/ja_it13usweb> says the American Public
> Transportation Association, which
> <http://metrofutureblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/national-honor-metro-bus-dr
> iver-recognized-for-51-years-of-safe-driving/> honored him for a 51-year
> safe driving record this month in Kansas City, Mo.
> He didn't expect to spend decades behind the wheel, but found out, "I'm
> totally relaxed, but I'm on guard." Ramey tells trainees: "I didn't expect
> anything out of the job. Don't try to imagine what it's going to be, just
> see what comes with the job." People who get on the bus are fascinating, 
> he
> says.
> At age 82, he continues to drive one daily round-trip on the popular Route
> 150, connecting Kent, Southcenter, Sodo and downtown Seattle.
> The longtime Burien resident officially retired in 2000, and currently
> receives a $2,795 monthly pension, records say. Ramey says his extra 
> income
> from part-time driving pays for vacation cruises with his wife.
> "And I'm not a sit-at-home guy," he says.
> There is no mandatory retirement age at Metro. All bus and rail operators
> must pass a physical every two years, and driving is evaluated yearly.
> Two Metro drivers last year were older than Ramey, but had fewer years on
> the job. As of 2010, the agency employed 62 transit operators age 70 or
> older, out of a work force of 2,780, according to a county database.
> "We value our older drivers," said Darryl Russell, safety director. 
> "Because
> they have done quite a few things right."
> Left home at 16
> Ramey says he grew up poor in Seattle, raised by a grandmother in a rental
> house where the Pacific Science Center arches now stand. He left home at 
> 16
> and worked as a ship deckhand, truck driver and carnival barker, a
> self-described vagabond.
> He ran low on money, so his older sister urged him to apply for steady 
> work
> at Seattle Transit, where he was hired Nov. 5, 1952. He worked briefly for
> Boeing, then returned to buses, at the Suburban Transportation System.
> Back then, the same people rode every day, in the same seats, and knew 
> each
> other, Ramey remembers.
> An old Ford bus would be so packed that people sat on a rod that manually
> swung open the door, as on an old school bus. Then on cue, they would 
> raise
> their rumps a half-inch so Ramey could let in new passengers.
> "The buses didn't have power steering. Most had straight up-and-down
> windshields, which in the dark was like a television screen reflecting the
> inside of the bus," he said.
> Buses carried only a small heater, so in wintertime drivers wore thick 
> socks
> and boots. Transmissions were controlled by stick shift. Bus drivers made
> change for cash fares, carried mail and hauled freight.
> Metro Transit itself
> <http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/history/history-1970.html> wasn't formed
> until 1973. It's now the nation's seventh-busiest public bus agency,
> carrying 400,000 weekday passengers around the nation's fastest-growing 
> big
> city. Taxpayers spend millions to employ part-time drivers like Ramey, who
> can serve commuter peaks.
> Thursday morning, Ramey brought his bus from the base, and parked at 5:01
> a.m. at Convention Place Station, and wedged a pink wheel chock under a 
> tire
> until his 5:15 a.m. departure time.
> He greeted tunnel security guards by name, and congratulated a regular
> passenger, Devayon Lett, on the new septum ring inside his nose. Cruising
> south, Ramey saluted every oncoming operator in the Sodo busway.
> Boarding passengers all received the same "Good morning," except a 
> homeless
> man's black terrier pup, who earned a "Good morning, big guy." Ramey tells
> jokes, though not many.
> He tells customers to pay the fare, but won't provoke a fight.
> "He does everything in moderation," said George Died, riding in back. 
> "This
> guy, he's totally 100 percent professional."
> Ramey keeps his left hand on the steering wheel, while his right hand 
> rests
> on his knee, a habit from when a right hand controlled the clutch. The
> standard 10-and-2 hand position causes back tension, he says.
> Another long-honed skill is to sidle toward a curbside bus stop at almost
> full speed, accurately arriving within a couple inches.
> Passengers said they appreciate how Ramey hustles to reach Kent Station,
> just in time for transferring onto the Route 180 bus to Auburn.
> "If he didn't do it, I'd be out of a job," says Lett, headed to work at 
> UPS.
> Ramey's patience is tested whenever a bicyclist takes a rear seat, wasting
> seconds to retrieve a bike off the front rack. Or when a train blocks a
> street. Or when pedestrians running from the Kent Station park-and-ride
> garage to catch the Sounder trains dart in front of his bus and flip him 
> the
> middle finger.
> All these annoyances put the 150 at risk of running late. "Get off, get
> off," he whispered as a woman hesitated at the rear door.
> Heading back north into Seattle, he drew on his experience, and avoided
> moving into the left bus-carpool lane - which would only force him to 
> weave
> right again, to reach the Sodo exit. Ramey and another driver timed those
> options for a month and found a mere minute's difference. But staying in 
> the
> right lane reduces turbulence from traffic.
> "The more I'd have to step over all these lanes, the more jeopardy you're
> in," he said.
> The ride did cause one passenger to grumble, "He's trying to suffocate 
> us,"
> because Ramey didn't notice the stagnant, warming air within the
> climate-controlled bus and open a vent.
> "And they want more money," the rider said. Metro is girding for a 
> possible
> 16 percent cut in service hours, due to budget shortfalls.
> Changes on the road
> Ramey's favorite run was Route 194, airport-to-downtown, discontinued in
> early 2010 when Sound Transit light rail reached the airport. Buses
> attracted people from around the world - his biggest-ever load reached 135
> people.
> "I don't like an empty bus," he said.
> He says the biggest change in traffic is that drivers feel no compunction
> about cutting in front of a bus. Passengers think of Metro as a government
> bureaucracy, so they're quick to complain. "People walk around in life
> frustrated, anymore," he said.
> Ramey was Operator of the Year in 1992. Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer said
> his file notes four preventable accidents that caused minor property 
> damage,
> the most recent a sideswipe 24 years ago.
> "He loves transit. You can see the love in the way he treats his 
> customers,
> his work ethic, the way he talks about how important it is to provide the
> service," says his boss, South Base superintendent Suzanne Keyport.
> Ramey, his wife, Ruth, and their friend and housemate Linda Smith, also
> operate the
> <https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northwest-Public-Transportation-Historical-G
> roup/132220906814945> Northwest Public Transportation Historical Group,
> which preserves models, schedules and artifacts from the 20th century.
> By now he's seen just about everything, except for layoffs, which he 
> worries
> are coming to Metro soon.
> Becky Frankeberger
> Butterfly Knitting
> -           Ponchos
> -           Afghans
> -           Shawls
> -           Custom Knitting
> 360-426-8389
> becky at butterflyknitting.com
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